- Video poker multiplier games increase chances at a big payoff and raise average payback percentages.
- The new Super Times Pay Super Streaks brings extra hands as well as multipliers on winners.
- Another new game, Ultimate X Gold, keeps multipliers in place until you win.
Developments in online slots have made bonus events the main course. It's the bonuses that attract players and keep them coming back, and if a bonus isn't to a player's taste, there's always a different serving elsewhere.
Video poker is different. The main courses in online casinos as well as live casinos are the same as they've been for decades -- Jacks or Better, Double Double Bonus Poker, Deuces Wild and other popular favorites. Bonuses are there to add some spice.
Two of the spiciest new video poker games around, Super Times Pay Stacks and Ultimate X Gold, are variations on popular favorites Super Times Pay and Ultimate X Video Poker.
Both are multiple-hand games requiring an extra wager to activate bonus features. The features are friendly to those who ponder how to win at video poker.
On games from International Game Technology, which produces all the most popular video poker favorites, making the extra bet to activate the feature raises the overall payback percentage. The games are more volatile because you're betting more and relying on bonus multipliers for a large share of the payback, but the average return increases.
IGT and its Action Gaming partner busily go about creating new video poker recipes every year. One of the most enduring games to grow out of that partnership is Super Times Pay, in which you bet a sixth-coin per hand.
At random times one of the card spaces will show a multiplier before turning up your card. When the multiplier occurs on a winning hand, your return soars. The maximum multiplier is 10x, which could turn an ordinary five-coin return on a pair of Jacks into a nice 50-coin pay, and could turn a 4,000-coin royal flush into a 40,000-coin bonanza.
The latest take on Super Times Pay is Super Times Pay Super Stacks.
Like Super Times Pay, Super Stacks is available in Triple Play, Five Play and Ten Play versions, meaning you're playing three, five or 10 hands. You get a starting hand, decide which cards to hold, and then your hand and the remaining deck are cloned so you get three, five or 10 different draws from the same start.
In Super Stacks, the bonus potential is bigger because not only are bonus multipliers available, but so are bonus hands. The Super Stacks in question are stacks of extra hands.
This one requires an extra bet of five coins per hand to activate. On Triple Play without the bonus feature, the maximum bet is 15 coins. With Super Stacks, you're betting 30. Similarly, on Five Play you'd bet 50 instead of 25 coins and on Ten Play 100 instead of 50.
There's a powerful incentive to make the extra wager. At random times with an average of once per 11 hands, you will receive stacks of extra hands with a multiplier.
The average multiplier is 4.06, with a maximum of 10. Sometimes winnings will be multiplied by 2, sometimes by 10 and sometimes numbers in between, but the average is about 4.
The average number of extra hands depends on the number of hands at the start. If you're playing Super Stacks Triple Play, you'll average six extra hands with a maximum of nine; on Five Play that grows to a 10-hand average with a 16-hand max; and on Ten Play the extra-hand average is 20 with a max of 30.
With that many hands and with a multiplier, the potential is there for enormous wins. The tradeoff is that losing hands cost twice as much money as usual, and the extra bet turns some winners into overall losers. In Double Double Bonus Triple Play, for example, a straight plus two losing hands brings 20 coins in return -- a winner if you're betting 15 coins but a loser if you're betting 30.
At wizardofodds.com, Michael Shackelford has calculated payback percentages for games on the Super Stacks format. If you can find 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker, the average return without the feature is 98.98 percent, but with Super Stacks it grows to 99.79 percent.
Top-line pay tables often aren't available in multiplier games, but even lower-paying games are helped by Super Stacks. If you play 7-5 Bonus Poker, it's usually a 98.01-percent return game, but that rises to 98.82 percent with Super Stacks.
Always keep in mind the extra volatility. Don't play if you can't afford the larger bets. But if you can, the Super Stacks format adds intrigue and big-win potential to the Super Times Pay recipe.
Another new game, Ultimate X Gold, has its roots in the Ultimate X original that captured players imaginations and attention to rank with the most popular multiplier games.
In the original Ultimate X, available in Triple Play, Five Play and Ten Play versions, multipliers are associated with different winning hands. In Ultimate X Triple Play Jacks or Better, for example. if you get three of a kind on the middle hand, then a big "4X" appears next to that space for the following hand. If the next hand brings a winner in the middle, then the payoff is quadrupled.
If a hand brings different winners top, bottom and middle, then each space will have a different multiplier for the next hand. Losing hands bring no multipliers. Multipliers range from 2 to 12 times the usual payoffs.
Ultimate X Gold is similar in concept. Like Ultimate X, it takes an extra five-coin bet per hand to activate the bonus feature. Like Ultimate X, different hands bring different multipliers.
Unlike Ultimate X, the multiplier doesn't disappear on a losing hand. Instead, the multiplier is a target hand and it stays in place until the associated winning hand is achieved.
At the start of play, every hand is at the usual 1x payoff. Any dealt winner increases the multiplier on that hand and any eligible hand above it. If you were dealt three of a kind, multipliers would increase on three of a kind and all hands above it through four of a kind. On Jacks or Better-based games, there are no multipliers on high pairs, two pairs, straight flushes or royals.
More dealt winners increase the multipliers again, up to a maximum of 9x.
If you have a 9x multiplier on a straight in Double Double Bonus, for example, you'd receive 180 coins instead of 20. That multiplier would reset to 1x to start building again, but all other multipliers would remain in place.
If there's a 9x multiplier next to four 5s through Kings, it stays there until you get four of a kind. Your next qualifying quads will pay 2,250 coins instead of 250 even if it takes 200 hands to get there. That gives you a strong incentive to keep playing video poker.
Remember: Don't over-bet your bankroll and don't bet money you can't afford to lose, but as long as you play safely and sanely, Ultimate X Gold is a fun game to add to your menu.